News Briefs from the week of Nov. 25, 2022

Fort Myers Rabbi given Papal Knighthood

Rabbi A. James Rudin, co-founder of the St. Leo University’s Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies, became only the third American rabbi in history to be honored with the Papal Knighthood of the Order of St. Gregory for his work in interfaith relations at St. Leo University on Nov. 20, 2022. Rabbi Rudin, who is from Fort Myers, received the medal of the Order of St. Gregory from Auxiliary Bishop Mark O’Connell, of the Archdiocese of Boston. The investiture ceremony was conducted on behalf of Pope Francis in recognition of Rudin’s decades of work in building positive Catholic-Jewish relations throughout the world, fostering interreligious dialogue and understanding. Rabbi Rudin has spoken several times at interreligious gatherings within the Diocese of Venice, including the annual Yom HaShoah commemoration in Venice, as well as the Kristallnacht commemoration in Naples. Bishop Frank J. Dewane was among the honored guests for the investiture. Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston, originally was to conduct the ceremony on behalf of Pope Francis, but was unable to attend. The Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies was co-founded by Bishop John J. Nevins, founding Bishop of the Diocese of Venice.

“Blessings Bags” for Our Mother’s House

Girl Scout Troop 71404, which is located in North Royalton, Ohio, and is composed of 16 kindergarten girls who recently had a lesson on hurricanes, made “Blessings Bags” for moms and kids in the Diocese of Venice after hearing about Hurricane Ian.  The girls made 46 bags including 13 bags for moms with personal hygiene items, six bags for babies including items such as pacifiers, rattles, and hooded bath towels, and 27 bags for children, which included toys, writing pads, and crayons. The “Blessings Bags” were distributed to moms, babies and kids at Our Mother’s House in Venice on Nov. 17, 2022. The Catholic Charities programs provides residential support for new mothers who might otherwise be homeless. Upon receiving the “Blessing bags,” Shannon Hoyt, Our Mother’s House Program Manager said, “What an amazing, thoughtful thing for them to do! Thank you so much!”

Giving Tuesday, Nov. 29

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving (Nov. 29, 2022) has been traditionally recognized as Giving Tuesday, when people switch from their frenetic Christmas shopping to give back to local charities. Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. (www.catholiccharitiesdov.org), as well as each of the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools (https://dioceseofvenice.org/find-a-school/) are participating in this Giving Tuesday. Many of these organizations have challenges which can multiply your donation and better benefit a school or program. Please consider giving on Giving Tuesday.

Parish celebrates cultural diversity

St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers celebrated a multicultural Mass on Nov. 20, 2022, the Solemnity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Prior to the Mass, women of the Vietnamese Catholic community performed a ceremonial dance in honor of Christ the King. The Mass included readings in Spanish, Filipino, and English, and music from each of the cultures. This Mass was originally scheduled for early October but was delayed due to the destruction caused to the Fort Myers area during Hurricane Ian. The celebration was one way to mark the ongoing recovery as well the diversity and unity of the Universal Church.

Students make blankets for the homeless

As part of a Reverse Advent Calendar Project, eighth graders at St. Martha Catholic spent the week before their Thanksgiving break making blankets for the homeless. A special thank you to the local JoAnn Fabric stores for making the fabric for the blankets available.

Science, art and food enhance classroom lesson

As part of a biology class at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples on Nov. 16, 2022, students created a 3-D representative of a eukaryotic and prokaryotic cell, with a twist. The goal of the project was to develop and use the model to describe the function of a cell as a whole and showed ways that parts of cells contribute to the function. Then they ate the cells which were created out of a variety of food. This unique project was developed by teacher Elaina Gianello who used various aspects of the STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, art, and math) curriculum to make the lesson more engaging for the students.

Safety patrol recognized for hard work

The Safety Patrol team at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton received a surprise visit on Nov. 16, 2022, from deputies from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. Each Safety Patrol member was presented with a Junior Deputy Badge and AAA Certificate. A Sheriff’s representative spoke to the Safety Patrol member to recognize the hard work and commitment these fourth-grade students have put into their positions.

Students make prayer ropes

Bishop Verot Catholic High School theology students in Fort Myers recently learned about prayer ropes and made them during an outdoor lesson on Nov. 15, 2022. These ropes are typically made with intricate knots, 33 of them to be specific – one for each year of Jesus’ life. A prayer rope is a loop made up of complex woven knots formed in a cross pattern, usually out of wool or silk. The students learned a little more about this tradition and got to enjoy some time outside of the classroom in the process during their theology class. Most commonly part of the practice of Eastern Orthodox monks and nuns, the prayer ropes are used to count the number of times one has prayed to Jesus.

News Briefs for Nov. 18, 2022

Family Day in Wauchula

The 2022 St. Michael Parish Family Day on Nov. 12, 2022, in Wauchula, welcomed more than 130 families (over 250 participants to include parents and their children) for a beautiful day filled with guest speakers about parenting, a young adult guest speaker, and children learning about the Eucharist and how to have a stronger relationship with Jesus. There were family games and raffles. The day ended with a Eucharistic Procession and Holy Mass, and dinner. The day focused on prayer for the conversion of all, that they may seek God in the Eucharist to guide them as a united family.

Naples Scout recognized

Luke P. Rubino, a senior at Naples High School and St. Ann Catholic School Class of 2019, achieved Eagle Rank from the Boy Scouts of America-Southwest Florida Council/Alligator District with Troop 165, now affiliated with St. Ann Parish in Naples. Luke was also awarded the Good Citizenship Award presented by the Marine Corps League (E.T. Brisson Detachment #063) of Naples on Nov. 13, 2022, in the Parish Hall.

New altar servers blessed

Father Luis Pacheco, Pastor of St. Paul Parish in Arcadia, recently welcomed and blessed a new group of altar servers. The blessing took place Nov. 13, 2022, for the boys and girls who completed a training program. These servers will now be able to serve at Masses each week.

Naples students build bikes

More than 30 St. John Neumann Catholic High School students came together with Key and Kiwanis clubs from around the county to build bikes with the Bikes for Tykes Organization at Palmetto Ridge High School in Naples on Nov. 12, 2022. Students worked in teams of two assembling new bikes that were donated to local families. During the event, some of the students entertained the waiting children with face painting and games.

Fort Myers robotics team gains experience

The Bishop Verot Catholic High School robotics program hosted two local robotics teams to work on their designs and programming in Fort Myers on Nov. 5, 2022. The “Java the Hutt” team was incredibly helpful, as they brought their robot and helped the Verot teams get their bots built and programmed to move. The students learned about the latest version of a competition robot. The Cypress Lake team shared ideas and were instrumental in getting a playing field constructed, while advising about which materials to purchase and use to help construct future Verot robots. Events like this are vital to the growth of robotics in Southwest Florida.

Thanksgiving festival delights children

St. Martha Catholic School National Junior Honor Society hosted a Thanksgiving Festival for students in kindergarten through second grade in Sarasota on Nov. 14, 2022. The students decorated their own cookies, colored placemats, created turkeys, wrote what they are thankful for, played Thanksgiving Bingo and completed Thanksgiving Math.

 

Thousands attend Hispanic Fall Festival

The Hispanic Fall Festival at St. Jude Parish in Sarasota returned from a two-year hiatus on Nov. 5, 2022, with a day filled with food, fun and entertainment.

This was the 18th Annual Hispanic Festival and an estimated 12,000 people descended on the Parish for this return event following a hiatus in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual festival is a celebration of both the individual nations and the unified culture of a diverse people. Held annually in early November, the day includes musical performances and ethnic dancers as well as food from many nations. Throughout the Parish grounds were tents full of a wide variety of foods that left many mouths watering.

The celebration of more than a dozen countries lasted from morning until sunset. Throughout the day, there were performances from a variety of countries, offering both folk and modern music and dance. Many wore shirts proclaiming to everyone their country of origin.

Alegria Fredrick, 12, enjoyed her papas rellenas from the Cuban food tent, which is a meat-filled potato ball. The highlight of the day for the young girl were the various dancers who wore colorful dresses. “It was so wonderful to see them dancing and singing to such beautiful songs.”

Father Celestino Gutierrez, Pastor of St. Jude, officially opened the Hispanic Festival with a prayer. This followed a “Parade of Flags” when each country represented at the festival was announced, and the respective flags brought forth cheers from the crowd.

As a bilingual Parish, the members of both the English and the Spanish speaking congregation participated and volunteered to staff the booths including a beverage stand run by youth from the Parish. This annual Festival is the oldest one in Sarasota County to feature authentic Latino food, music and culture.

Whether it was the food, the music, the dancing, or the joy of being around so many happy people, the Hispanic Festival was rated a massive success by any measure.

Thousands attend the event annually from as far away as Naples and Clearwater. It has become a much-anticipated event for the ethnically diverse Sarasota Parish. All of the proceeds of the Hispanic Festival go to support the various outreach efforts of St. Jude Parish, including a food pantry and other outreach efforts which help countless families throughout the year.

News Briefs for the week of Nov. 11, 2022

Appointments

After consultation, Bishop Frank J. Dewane announces the following:

Father Kristian Villafaña is relieved of his duties as Temporary Administrator of Holy Cross Parish, Palmetto, effective October 18, 2022.

Father Nicholas Thompson, as Parochial Vicar at St. John the Evangelist Parish, Naples, effective November 1, 2022.

Father Binu Joseph, as Parochial Vicar at Sacred Heart Parish, Bradenton, effective November 3, 2022.

Catholic Mass to Honor Veterans Moved Due to Weather

The Diocese of Venice in Florida will celebrate its 13th annual Veterans Day Catholic Mass to honor veterans on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022. The Mass, originally scheduled to be held at The Sarasota National Cemetery, has been moved due to weather constraints. The Mass will now be celebrated at the nearby St. Patrick Parish, 7900 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota. The Mass will begin at 3:30 p.m., with opening ceremonies at 3:15 p.m. All are encouraged to arrive early. Bishop Frank J. Dewane will be the principal celebrant of the Mass.

Mooney runner finishes second in States

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School junior Addison Dempsey took the silver medal in the Class 2A girls Florida High School Athletic Association Cross Country State Championship on Nov. 5, 2022, in Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee. Dempsey crossed the 5,000-meter (or 3.1 mile) race in 17:54, just 11 seconds behind the winner. The Mooney girls’ team came in 25th overall, with Kate Ruaona placing 11th. The Sarasota boys finished in 20th, with the top runner, Christian Kline placing 37th. At the same event, the Bishop Verot Catholic High School runners from Fort Myers also participated, with sophomore Mackenzie De Lisle placing fifth. The boy’s team took fifth place overall, with the top runner, Grayson Tubbs, placing 16th. Congratulations everyone!

Students learn to fold American Flag

The Veterans of Foreign War Golden Gate Post 7721 visited St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples on Nov. 4, 2022, to teach the eighth graders how to properly fold the American flag in advance of the school’s Veterans Day Tribute on Nov. 11.

Key Club members help neighboring school

More than 40 St. John Neumann Catholic High School students and Key Club members came together Nov. 7, 2022, to help with a beautification project at St. Elizabeth Seton. Students laid mulch on the playground and painted parking lot curbs and stops. Lots of fun was had amidst the hard work.

Tiger Trot a success

The annual Tiger Trot at Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice was a huge success. Held on Nov. 4, 2022, the event raised funds and everyone had a great time. Msgr. Patrick Dubois was in attendance to observe and blessed the Tiger Trot and cheer everyone on.

Thermal energy class was HOT!

Fourth grade science students at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota learned all about Thermal Energy the week of Nov. 1, 2022. The students each constructed their own solar oven and placed the components for s’mores in them before bringing them outside to cook. The result: the ovens worked, and everyone had a delicious snack created in their own oven!

Parish holds food fest

Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park held its annual International Food Festival on Nov. 6, 2022. Delectable cuisine from around the world was up for selection including from countries such as Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Ireland, Mexico, Italy and many more. Parish pastor Father Ronnie Sison, who is originally from the Philippines, took time to visit each table and sampled many selections.

 Fun day in Bradenton

A fun time was had during “Silly String” festivities at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton on Nov. 4, 2022. The fun was a follow-up celebration to the successful annual Eagle Run fundraiser held earlier in the month. The seventh-grade class, which had great success during the Eagle Run, also celebrated with a McDonald’s party.

 

Celebrating the saints and Halloween

The Catholic Solemnity of All Saints Day traces its origins in the Church to the year 609, and it was first celebrated in May. However, in the 9th century, Pope Gregory IV moved the holiday to Nov. 1, so that Oct. 31 would become the celebration of the vigil of the feast – All Hallow’s Eve.

With its roots in German, Halloween (Hallow’s Eve) actually translates to Holy/Saints Evening, or evening of All Saints’ Day.

Therefore, the tradition of dressing up for Halloween was taken with full gusto this year as many Parishes hosted Trunk-or-Treat events in their parking lots, while Diocesan Catholic Schools joined in the fun and the celebration of the saints in a variety of ways.

For example, in honor of All Saints’ Day, St. Joseph Catholic School 4th and 5th Graders in Bradenton researched the lives of their favorite saints, dressed as that Saint, and lead a procession into Mass on Nov. 1, 2022. After Mass, these students met in the Parish Center with families and parishioners to share details about their favorite Saint. Their costumes were impressive, and they did a great job with their presentations.

On Oct. 28, the St. Joseph second graders visited a nearby assisted living facility. In addition to trick-or-treating, the students performed Halloween poetry and songs for the residents. That same night, the school and Parish hosted a Truck-or-Treat where families went all out to come up with different themes.

St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers held a procession of saints before Mass on Oct. 30, as do many Parishes, allowing the young children the opportunity to get into the spirit of the special Feast Day.

Many children at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula participated in an All Hallow’s Eve celebration on Oct. 29. In addition to candy, there were fun games for all ages.

At St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring, the second-grade students carved out pumpkins in a lesson called “The Pumpkin Patch Parable” when they learned “Jesus takes our messy sins away so our light can shine all day and night.”

Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers hosted its own pumpkin decorating event on Oct. 28, bringing in young students from St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers and St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral. With guidance from the Verot students, their young charges enthusiastically decorated their pumpkins with all sorts of fun and colorful designs.

Incarnation Parish in Sarasota offered the veneration of First Class Relics in between each Mass on the vigil and solemnity. On display at the Parish were relics from St. Catherine of Siena, St. Dominic, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, St. John of the Cross, St. Faustina, St. Francis of Assisi and many more. The idea for this grew from a spring tour of the “Relics of the Vatican” which drew great interest.

Catholic News Service provided information for this report.

Diocesan Synod report available, synthesized into national report

By Karen Barry Schwarz, Special to the Florida Catholic

The faithful talked; the Diocese of Venice listened. From January to May of 2022, the Diocese of Venice hosted 12 Listening Sessions, including 11 live sessions at various Parishes throughout the Diocese and one virtual session. The events, most of which were attended by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, were fruitful, and inspiring.

These sessions were part of the Diocesan Phase of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” as requested by His Holiness Pope Francis.

The passion expressed during the Listening Sessions for the Catholic Faith was ubiquitous, as was the enthusiasm for the synodal process.

Some were surprised that the Church was asking for their input, as this has not been the case historically. Some were even, at first, reluctant to share, feeling it was not their place to do so.  But Pope Francis has called on the faithful to come forward, explaining synodality as “a way of being the Church today according to the will of God, in a dynamic of discerning and listening together to the voice of the Holy Spirit.”

“The Diocese found the participating faithful to be inspired and thoughtful in their responses to questions posed during the Listening Sessions, and in the open forum discussions when time allowed,” said Bishop Dewane.  “Many also participated via the Diocese’s dedicated synod email address, sending in their thoughts. All comments were heard and appreciated.”

Overall, more than 1,000 of the faithful participated in the synodal process, including both young and old, women and men, English and Spanish-speaking. Findings were compiled in a detailed report shared with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in June. Similar sessions to those held in the Diocese of Venice were held around the country and around the globe; a synthesis of all Diocesan reports will be shared with the Vatican.

The Diocesan Synthesis Synod Report (a brief version of the full report) and the U.S. National Synthesis Synod Report were both made available in September 2022 and are available for review on the Diocese website at https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/evangelization/diocesan-phase-of-the-synod-on-synodality/.

Diocesan Synod Synthesis

Within the Diocese of Venice, several themes emerged during the synodal process.

Participants were happy to report that they are proud to be Catholic and are eager to evangelize, but many felt they lacked the tools to do so. There was a general hunger for more catechesis and formation among all.  Great interest was expressed in more detailed “refresher course” type information surrounding the celebration of the Mass, and many expressed great interest in the celebration of the Latin Mass, especially as it relates to reverence. Some saw the traditional Latin Mass as a “way back to reverence,” which many saw as missing from the Church today.

Concern was also shared regarding the centrality of and belief in the Holy Eucharist, and it was expressed that this tenet of the Church needs to be reinvigorated. Many also expressed the need for powerful homilies during Mass, explaining that a good homily can provide inspiration for the week ahead. Some put forth the idea that priests ought to marry, as this may spark more interest in the vocation among young men. Others expressed a concern that this would present a dilemma for priests, as they are already married to the Church. Some suggested that women play more of a role in the Mass, and the Church in general, raising the question of women as deacons, or even priests. Many pointed out that women already play a large role in the Church, leading many ministries.

There was concern expressed about several groups who likely feel marginalized by the Church, including women. Other groups identified as possibly being marginalized by the Church included those who identify as LGBT, those who are divorced, those who work full-time, and those who are not necessarily part of any well-established “group” or “clique” in their local parish. It was suggested, for example, that the process for welcoming divorced Catholics back to the Church be made clearer, and that there be more convenient daily Mass times for working people.

Although some felt those living in poverty were marginalized by the Church, the majority felt that the Catholic Church does a good job helping the poor, mentioning Catholic Charities and the fact that the Catholic Church is the largest private social service organization in the country.

The need to reach and engage young people was identified, with many feeling that young people drift away from the Church sometime between the Sacrament of Confirmation and the Sacrament of Marriage. Many felt that young people do not come back until it is time to baptize their own children, and then it may be too late to get them back.

There was a repeated call for continued and increased transparency in the Church, especially as it relates to sexual abuse and the wounds of the past.

Of interest, the U.S. Synthesis also had many of the same findings the Diocese found in its sessions/feedback and many of the same things emerged worldwide.

The Vatican recently published a document that highlights the results of the Synod worldwide and will guide the next stage of discussions in the Synod on Synodality.

The working document, titled “Enlarge the space of your tent,” covers issues across a broad spectrum, from the clergy sexual abuse crisis to Christian unity. The text calls for “a Church capable of radical inclusion” and says that many Synod reports from around the world raised questions about the inclusion and role of women, young people, the poor, people identifying as LGBTQ, and the divorced and remarried.

The 44-page working document is officially called the DCS (Document for the Continental Stage). It summarizes the reports shared with the Vatican by bishops’ conferences, religious congregations, departments of the Roman Curia, lay movements, and other groups and individuals.

Published on Oct. 27, the document aims to be “the privileged instrument through which the dialogue of the local Churches among themselves and with the universal Church can take place during the Continental Stage.”

Catholic News Service provided information for this report.

News Briefs for the Week of November 4, 2022

Diocesan Seminarian admitted to candidacy

Bishop Frank J. Dewane presided over the Admission to Candidacy of 14 seminarians at Pope St. John XXIII Seminary, in Weston, Massachusetts, on Oct. 26, 2022. Among those admitted to candidacy was Diocese of Venice Seminarian Carlos Galeso. Each of the seminarians have been approved by their respective Bishops and will continue in their studies to become Catholic priests. Each man publicly expressed his intention to complete his preparation for Holy Orders and his resolve to fully invest himself to that calling.

World Youth Day 2023 Registration extended to Nov. 30!

Registration for World Youth Day 2023 to Lisbon, Portugal and has been extended to Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022. You are invited to join Bishop Frank J. Dewane for the trip to Lisbon with two nights in Fatima. This 11-day pilgrimage is from July 29 to August 8, 2023. The theme for World Youth Day 2023 is “Mary arose and went with haste”. (Luke 1:39) Travel arrangements are facilitated by Peter’s Way Tours. Space is limited. Please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/evangelization/world-youth-day-2023/ for registration and further information.

Food pantry needs help ahead of Thanksgiving

The St. Joseph Food Pantry, 2704 33rd Ave. W., Bradenton, is seeking food donations ahead of Thanksgiving. Specifically needed are canned green beans, canned corn, canned sweet potatoes/yams, corn muffin mix, and boxed dressing. Donations can be delivered to to the Food Pantry Monday thru Friday 9 a.m. until noon. Please call 941-756-3732 or email directors@stjoepantry.com if you have any questions or need to make arrangements for drop off.  Year round, the pantry needs full-sized toiletries, cereal and oatmeal, canned tuna, peanut butter & jelly (in plastic containers only), spaghetti in boxes and canned tomato sauce (no glass), boxed macaroni & cheese, ketchup and mustard (in plastic containers only), salad dressing (in plastic containers only), shelf stable milk or dry milk, and breakfast bars. During the cooler months, there is also a need for clean, gently used or new, blankets or throws. NO clothing. The St. Joseph Food Pantry does not accept fresh or frozen food from donors. All such items are shipped from stores with which the pantry has a professional relationship, or from the Feeding Tampa Bay Food Bank. This policy follows USDA food safety guidelines. For more information, please visit www.stjoepantry.com.

Freshmen retreat shows off Mooney

What makes Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota different? The community of caring students. The freshmen class had their first retreat on Oct. 27, 2022, where the senior ministry students led them in prayer, played games, and provided a safe place to talk about their faith. The class of 2026 is the future of Mooney and spent the day together bonding. The theme of the day: “Called By Name” came from Isaiah 43:1, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

 

Talents shine at Science Fair

The Incarnation Catholic School middle schoolers took part in a Science Fair in Sarasota on Oct. 28, 2022. The students did an amazing job impressing the judges, teachers and each other. Each student, or team, did various experiments and documented their results, including the purpose of the project, a hypothesis, materials and procedures to conduct the experiment, data collected and the results. This was all displayed, including various graphs and images, to be judged and available for others to learn.

 

Children join in celebrating World Mission Sunday

St. Paul Parish in Arcadia celebrated World Mission Sunday, on Oct. 23, 2022, with a procession of children wearing traditional clothing representing the different regions of the world. The children then sat on the steps of the altar while World Mission Sunday was explained. World Mission Sunday is celebrated in all the local Churches as the feast of Catholicity and universal solidarity so Christians the world over will recognize their common responsibility with regard to the evangelization of the world.

More stories from Hurricane Ian

Making progress

Just a few days after the Myakka River receded from record flooding, work crews were at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice doing mitigation in each of the buildings. By Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, just days after the waters receded enough to allow access to the property, crews had emptied the contents of each of the Villas and were working on removing the flooring in the St. Joseph Chapel.

During the river flooding after Hurricane Ian, at least 18 inches or more of river water entered each building. Because the waters remained high for more than a week after the buildings were breeched, more damage occurred. In fact, the cleanup crews were forced to cut about four feet of dry wall in the Chapel as the water had made the bottom parts unsalvageable.

While OLPH is closed for repairs, some of the activities and retreats have been moved to new locations. For a complete list and more updates, please visit www.olph-retreat.org.

Cross straightened

The cross on the roof of St. Cecilia Parish church in Fort Myers was knocked askew and left dangling by the fierce winds of Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28, 2022. On Oct. 14, a large cherry-picker lifted workers up to straighten the cross and make it stand tall once again. The church property had other minor damage, but the restoration of the cross was a symbol of progress toward a full recovery not only for the Parish but for the entire Fort Myers community which suffered great losses during the hurricane.

 

Roof sealed

A long strip of the high-pitched roof of St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers was peeled off during Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28, 2022. This and other roof damage caused by the winds allowed water to enter into the church, causing extensive damage in the narthex, chapel and main sanctuary. Contractors for the Diocese were able to place sealing tarps over the holes in the roof by Oct. 10 which will be in place until repairs can take place preventing any further damage.

 

Pine Island Parish open for Mass

Daily Mass returned on Oct. 17, 2022, to Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Parish in Bokeelia, Pine Island, an area hard hit by Hurricane Ian. Mass is being celebrated although there is still no power, internet or phones at the church. Daily Mass is at 8:30 a.m., and the weekend schedule (4 p.m. Saturday, and 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. Sunday) remains the same. The buildings on the property suffered damage, with major water into the Parish Hall and some into the church. Many trees were knocked down and there was water intrusion in the church and Parish Hall, but otherwise the church had no damage from storm surge which impacted the southern section of the island. Parish staff is posting updates as needed, please visit http://www.miraculousmedalch.org/.

Knights feed 1,000

Members of the Knights of Columbus from multiple Councils converged on Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022, to host a cookout for the Fort Myers community which was hard hit by Hurricane Ian. Many parishioners lost homes while others lost work. The Knights grilled up more than 1,000 hamburgers and hot dogs so everyone had a hearty meal. Whatever food that was leftover was sent home with the parishioners.

The Knights were primarily from Collier County, including from Parishes such as Ave Maria, St. William, St. Agnes, St. John the Evangelist and St. Elizabeth Seton as well as others representing the Knights Florida State Council. Father Patrick O’Connor, Oblates of St. Frances de Sales, said the food was greatly appreciated by the many families at this Spanish-speaking Parish. Many were hit doubly hard by the storm with home damage and those in the service industry being thrown out of work for an unknown length of time.

Community rallies after Ian brings winds then flooding

DeSoto County took a double hit from Hurricane Ian. First, the hurricane brought battering winds that tore roofs off and caused a great deal of damage causing many to lose their homes and business. Then, two days later, the Peace River, normally a tranquil strip of water that meanders through the heart of the county, overspilled its banks and kept rising to an all-time record crest. The flood waters rose so fast that many fled with what was on their back.

St. Paul Parish in Arcadia was not immune to the wind damage, suffering losses of the offices, classrooms and hall and leaks in the church. “Blessed be God we are alive!” said Father Luis Pacheco, St. Paul Administrator. “Despite the devastation that we all have encountered with Hurricane Ian, some more than others, we have a lot to be grateful for. It could have been much worse.”

St. Paul has become the epicenter of the recovery effort for the region with Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., setting up a Disaster Response site to give out, food, water, tarps, blankets, and cleaning supplies. Many other organizations have rallied at the property to offer clothing, bedding, diapers, medical check-ups and free hot meals. Among the supporting organizations were several from Diocesan Parishes, such as the Emmaus group from St. Joseph the Worker Parish in LaBelle, or a team from Our Lady of Grace in Avon Park, seminarians from St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, and many more.

“We will continue to strive and come out stronger,” Father Pacheco said. “I hope this hurricane has centered us and given us a new perspective in life. It is all about our relationship with God and with one another.”

News Briefs for the Week of Oct. 21, 2022

School celebrates Latin Fiesta

St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School students in Naples enjoyed a Latin Fiesta Oct. 13, 2022. This was a special day to celebrate the Latin culture with food, dance, music and more. Students experienced the Latin culture through a Folklore Dance Presentation and Zumba class and was such a fun and educational event for the school.

Veterans Day Mass

On Veterans Day, Friday, November 11, the Diocese of Venice will hold a Memorial Mass in honor of the men and women who have served our country and continue to serve and protect us today. This is the 13th year the Diocese has held a Mass on Veterans Day. Bishop Frank J. Dewane will celebrate the Mass at 3 p.m. at the Sarasota National Cemetery, 9810 State Road 72/Clark Road, approximately five miles east of I-75. The priests, deacons and Knights of Columbus in the Diocese will join Bishop Dewane for this important event. All are invited to attend, and active military personnel are asked to wear their uniform. Attendees are also encouraged to wear sunscreen and bring a hat. There is ample seating and parking at the cemetery. Please contact Gail Ardy at ardy@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-486-4714 for further information.

Formation program in Spanish begins

The “Gifts of the Holy Spirit” is the theme for the latest in a series of courses in the Diocese Faith Formation Program in Spanish. The series of seven classes takes place at different Parishes from early October 2022 through early March 2023. Each region of the Diocese is divided into zones to allow greater access to the classes which are held on Friday nights (and switch to Thursday nights during Lent). Those who register and attend a minimum of six classes will receive a Diocesan Certification. This is the fifth such course that has been offered within the Diocese of the Spanish-speaking community in the past several years. To learn more about the Hispanic Apostolate of the Diocese, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/hispanic-apostolate/.

Palmetto Knights earn elite status

Congratulations to the Knights of Columbus Council 7414, of Holy Cross Parish in Palmetto, which recently attained the Double Star Council status for the 2021-2022 fraternal year. Earning the “Star Council Award” is an annual recognition from the Supreme office of the Knights of Columbus. The Double Star designation means these men greatly exceeded the requirements for the annual recognition. The requirements cover a variety of efforts including membership increases, community service, Parish service and faith-based activities.

Science students build islands

Sixth grade science students at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota met the “Landform Island Challenge” head-on and did an amazing job on Oct. 14, 2022. For the challenge, the students had to build an island of landforms out of salt dough to demonstrate knowledge of landforms and how they are created, including: a mountain, valley, volcano, plateau, coastline, barrier islands, cape, lake, river with a delta, bay, and sound. The results were impressive!

Student recognized for artistic talent

Congratulations to Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School student Connor Bogue, fifth grade, who won the City of Venice’s annual Florida City Government Week poster contest at his school. Students drew to the theme, “My City, I’m Part of It, I’m Proud of It.” Connor won a pizza party for his class on Oct. 18, 2022, and received a framed certificate from City Public Information Officer Lorraine Anderson. His colorful artwork will also be installed at City Hall. Well done!

Bishop continues to lead response to Ian

Bishop Frank J. Dewane continues to lead the Diocese of Venice response to the devastating impacts of Hurricane Ian as he visits impacted Parishes and communities while also seeing first-hand what is being done to help people in need.

Bishop Dewane celebrated Mass on Oct. 8, 2022, at St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral, a region hard hit by Ian’s harsh winds and storm surge. Many, 13 days after the storm, still had no power in their homes.

“It is an honor to be here to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Cape Coral,” Bishop Dewane said. “Many of you have suffered and are still suffering as you try to recover from Ian’s wrath. We are gathered here to pray for the healing of those in need and give thanks for what you still have.”

The damage to homes in the area was so extensive that St. Katharine Drexel is the home of one of 10 Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., disaster distribution sites set up to help the community with basic needs of food, water and other supplies necessary for recovery after the storm.

The Gospel reading (Luke 17:11-19) tells of the 10 lepers who were healed by Jesus, but only one returned to thank the Lord.

“Be the one,” Bishop Dewane said. “The one who gives thanks to the Lord for the graces and gifts that are bestowed upon you each day. Now is the time to give your thanks. We are each grateful to be here as we move forward to recover from this hurricane and live our lives… It is going to take time to make repairs to the roof, but we need to give ourselves to the Lord, blessed and thankful for all we have.”

Immediately following the passage of Ian, Bishop Dewane began to visit the sites of destruction caused by the hurricane. It was on Oct. 6, 2022, when he was able to visit the hard-hit communities in Desoto and Hardee counties. Access to these areas was extremely limited by river flooding and the areas were under ongoing states of emergency.

Both the Myakka and Peace rivers had record crests, pouring water into the low-lying communities of Arcadia, Zolfo Springs, Wauchula, Bowling Green, as well as in Venice, Sarasota and North Port which the Bishop visited previously.

During the Oct. 6 visit, Bishop Dewane saw the devastation first-hand, noting the destroyed homes, many of which, stood up to the ferocious winds of the hurricane only to be washed away days later by flood waters. Many lost the entire contents of their homes and were left living in their vehicles unsure what to do.

While visiting St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, the Bishop learned firsthand about the devastating flooding to the community, as well as about a fire which destroyed 108 apartments, leaving many in desperate situations. He toured the Parish food pantry which was well-stocked from supplies provided by a regional food bank as well as from Catholic Charities.

During his visit, Bishop Dewane spoke to families and offered several blessings for healing as they continued to suffer from the storm that had finally passed.

At St. Paul Parish in Arcadia, the Bishop met with Administrator Father Luis Pacheco. They inspected water leaks to the Parish church, as well as damage to the roofs of the old church and Parish Hall.

St. Paul is also one of the Catholic Charities disaster recovery distribution sites, which included food, water, blankets, tarps, cleaning supplies, sunscreen, batteries, diapers and more. The Bishop greeted and thanked the Catholic Charities staff and volunteers for their hard work.

Bishop Dewane returned to St. Paul on Oct. 10, when he met with 12 seminarians studying at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, who were doing a service trip to assist in the area on Columbus Day. Seminary Rector Msgr. Alfredo Hernandez and the seminarians were divided into three groups. The Bishop, Rector, and Father Pacheco helped create 550 bags of rice and beans after breaking open larger 50-pound bags. Another group helped clear debris from the property, while a third group went to a poor community to distribute food, water, clothes and toiletries.

“In spite of going in two loaded vans, they had to do four trips in total to cover the immediate need,” Father Pacheco said. “Blessed be God!! I think it was a great exercise in ministry, compassion and reality to our seminarians, future priests of our Holy Catholic Church.”

 

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